An apocryphal story tells of a man seeking enlightenment. He goes to the Himalayas and there he meditates for almost five years. When he believes he has emptied his mind of his ego, he returns to civilization. The very first time he drives a car again, he finds himself in heavy traffic. When a driver cuts him off, he bursts out swearing. Moral: It is in the playing field of everyday life that we meet our ego.
Perhaps you’ve heard this similar one-liner: If you think you are enlightened, go spend a week with your parents and report back.
Some time ago, in a dream, my wife and I were arguing. Desperate to make my point, I grew irate as back and forth we went. Why couldn’t she understand? She was coming up with self-serving, illogical arguments to defend her behavior.
When I awoke I realized that what upset me in the dream was the very thing I was doing in real life. My wife in the dream was a mirror reflecting my own self-serving rationalizations for my own bad behavior. I was the pot calling the kettle black. Talk about an attention getting dream—this dream captured mine.
Where would the meditator be without the traffic? Where would we be without our parents? Where would I be without my wife?
Many Native American tribes assigned a member the role of Sacred Clown. The Sacred Clown was to intentionally mess with people, disrupt their day, get them to react, so they had a chance to see their blind spots.
Every day we are tricked by our thinking; we blame others and circumstances for our feelings. But the very instant we blame we have an opportunity to see what is going on in our own mind. Without others we would never have a chance to choose again.
You may have noticed that while experiencing an upsetting dream, part of your mind realizes you are dreaming and wakes you up. Is the same not true in our waking life, too? If we are holding on to a bad line of thinking and having a bad day, can we not “wake-up” and choose again? We do not have to keep going down the same road.
In his book Bonds That Make Us Free, Dr. Terry Warner writes:
We do not control the timing of a change of heart. We make ourselves available for it by faithfully doing the right things for the right reasons; that much does lie within our control. But just when and how a change of heart will come, we cannot force. It’s like physical healing: our spirits, like our bodies, seem to know how to heal themselves when the obstacles to healing are removed. Our part– the part in which deliberation, planning, willpower, and persistence play their roles—consists of removing the obstacles.
We do not control a change of heart but we do decide to make ourselves available for one. The Love of God does the rest. In truth, every human being has the greatest gift all—an unbreakable connection to the Love of God. If we bemoan our lack of what we think we need, we may live in a world of resentment. But our resentments melt away and transmute to feelings of gratitude as we realize this love connection.
We can’t help but live in the results of the way we relate to the world. Through the course of everyday life others reveal to us how much attention we are paying to our dysfunctional thinking. We don’t have to think more positive thoughts; we just have to stop processing our negative thoughts. Our ego is only as strong as the attention we give it. And valuing our ego is the biggest barrier to a change of heart.
May we all be grateful for those we love and for those we find difficult. Every moment of every day is another chance to make ourselves available for a change of heart.